Big Tree looking to branch out [Business Times (Malaysia)]
(Business Times (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PUTRAJAYA: MALAYSIA'S leading outdoor advertising outfit, Big Tree Outdoor Sdn Bhd, is setting its sight beyond the Malaysian borders.
Big Tree, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the country's largest integrated media group Media Prima Bhd, is keen to penetrate the Myanmar market.
Big Tree chief executive officer Jeff Cheah said the company is now exploring the overseas market and Myanmar is on its radar.
"The potential in Myanmar is very good and its economy is growing fast, with the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of more than six per cent annually for a few years now. Foreign direct investment is also on the rise," he said.
Having generated RM163 million in revenue last year, Big Tree has set a target of RM170 million in revenue for 2014.
Cheah said the company has set aside RM15 million for capital expenditure (capex) this year, with a big chunk to go towards upgrading its prime assets and spending on better-yield assets.
The rest of the capex will be set aside for business expansion, he said, adding that there is nothing yet within the company's sight in terms of new businesses that it hopes to acquire.
Cheah, who has 15 years of experience in the outdoor advertising industry, said the billboards segment contributes the most to the company in terms of revenue.
He is upbeat on growth coming from the digital side of business, saying that although outdoor (or out-of-home media) digital segment is new and the base is small, or at the infancy stage, the growth potential is good.
Big Tree is diversified in the fully integrated outdoor media solutions that it offers, with five main divisions driving its business, namely Big Drive (such as billboards); Big Buy (shopping malls and others); Big Ride ( public transportation systems); Big Fly (international airports like in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu); and Big Digital.
"We are looking at growth in all divisions and are looking at having more inventory and identifying more locations to build up inventory," Cheah said.
One of Big Tree's strengths is its ability to secure exclusive advertising concessions, including the rights to prime locations such as KL Sentral, Suria KLCC, North-South Expressway, New Klang Valley Expressway and Elite Highway.
What really sets Big Tree apart from its rivals is the fact that it does not rest on its laurels despite landing exclusive advertising concessions.
Instead, the company is constantly on a high-speed innovation cycle, improving on the products it offers to clients as well keeping abreast on the latest developments in the world of electronics and technology.
One of its most important billboard locations is the highly visible and coveted junction next to Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC) in Kuala Lumpur, which saw the billboard replaced by a six-tonne steel structure housing a digital screen.
Correspondingly, the price positioning has changed, too.
"We came up with our own design and got our contractor to build the BSC digital billboard. Beyond technology, we also emphasise on the aesthetics and look of the structures for our digital media (digital billboard). We are transforming the whole ecosystem and we need our business partners to join us in driving the change," he said.
However, getting clients to accept the new ecosystem is not as easy as one would think.
"Before the BSC digital billboard was erected (replacing the previous giant Big Tree billboard), there was hesitation. But now, there is a queue.
"The price positioning is different because Bangsar is an affluent area and only certain brands can afford to be there, but there is no shortage of clients for us," he said.
That aside, an interesting development in the pipeline would be the plans Big Tree has for Suria KLCC, the country's most popular shopping mall.
Keeping it mysterious, Cheah only lets out that Big Tree is looking at introducing a new technology and, if all goes according to plan, these will be rolled out in the third quarter of this year.
"It will be something not seen before in the local market," said Cheah.
In order to keep abreast of the latest developments and technology in the world of outdoor advertising, Cheah and his team go on field trips to benchmark what the company does against what the international players are doing.
"We went to Holland in February for an electronics and technology exhibition that showcased the latest products, from cables to LED screens. Last year, we attended conferences in the United States organised by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, where we saw the use of social media to get more eyeballs. Here at Big Tree, we are focused on technology use and engagement," he said.
Big Tree is a member of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
Besides the bells and whistles, what is important for the outdoor advertising industry?
"Our business is like the property sector... it is driven by location!" Cheah emphasised.
He noted that the buying pattern for clients has changed over the years. Outdoor media used to be long term, ranging from one to two years and billboards were used for brand-building.
Today, billboards are used more for brand awareness.
And now that Big Tree itself has become a renowned brand, awareness of what it does and what it can do continues to keep it ahead of the pack.
Last December, the company won the "Out-of-Home Media Award of the Year" from an influential advertising and marketing magazine.
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